Great Britain

Mourners run for cover after 'armed men' trigger mass panic at funeral in Northern Ireland

More than a dozen weapons, including hatchets and a machete, have been seized after a "disturbance" at a funeral service in Northern Ireland triggered mass panic.

Two men and a 17-year-old boy have been arrested following the incident, which was filmed on a livestream camera, at a church in the town of Strabane.

Live video from the service showed mourners appearing to run for cover after loud scuffles off-camera broke out at the church.

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A large number of weapons were seized by police on Thursday, including 13 hatchets, a machete and two large curved knives, following a “proactive” operation in the area.

“A significant proactive policing operation was in place this morning in the Melmount Road area to prevent disorder and keep people safe,” District Commander Chief Superintendent Emma Bond said.

“A disturbance did break out within the church however it was quickly addressed,” she added.

Ms Bond noted police were “aware of tensions between individuals who were in attendance at the funeral” but did not specify what those tensions were.

“I am appealing to anyone with influence to help bring about a calm resolution to the current issues,” she said.

It was suggested on social media that gunshots had been fired inside the church but police said they had found no evidence of shots after investigating those reports.

“We are aware of suggestions online that shots had been fired at the church on the Melmount Road, however there was a proactive police operation in place at the location and no evidence of shots having been fired were noted,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said in a statement.

Officers said no serious injuries had been reported.

The incident occurred at Melmount Parish in Strabane, west Tyrone, on Thursday morning.

When contacted by The Independent, the church confirmed a disturbance had taken place but did not share any further information on the incident.

The disturbance was caught on camera by MCN Media, a specialist live streaming company for churches, who work with Melmount Parish.

Leona O'Neill, a journalist for The Belfast Telegraph, reported a “huge police presence” of up to 20 police vehicles around the church but said the funeral and burial still went ahead as planned despite the disturbance.

Ms O’Neill also said bars and clubs in Strabane were on “lockdown” following the incident.